This article is a continuation of the "Living with 4K" series of articles that I have been publishing over the past couple of years. I just came back from CEDIA Expo 2014 and was very pleased with the event this year. My primary objective was to evaluate the quality of the information provided on a couple of technical classes related to 4K, HDMI for 4K, and Home Theater Audio (including the new Dolby Atmos), and also to meet 4K equipment manufacturers and see demos of their new product introductions.
According to CEDIA: "CEDIA EXPO 2014 showed steady growth in attendance and exhibitor participation. More than 480 exhibitors and 18,500 attendees from 82 countries participated in the 2014 event in Denver. Professional and overall attendance both grew by 3%, and the overall exhibitor footprint also saw growth with a 14% increase in the square footage of the show floor. CEDIA EXPO offered 110 training sessions, 48 of which were new, offering attendees avenues to stay up to date on the skills they need to remain competitive in the industry. Attendees remained consistent in their professional development with CEDIA training and this year's certification offerings. All CEDIA Certification exam sessions sold out and 40+ training classes were sold out."
Everything Seem to be 4K at CEDIA
Almost everyone at CEDIA claimed "4K something" on their products or services, from simple wires to switchers to remotes to displays, and, if they are not "fully and truly" 4K natively, they figure out to loosely use extra terms around the 4K logo to create the impression of 4K capabilities, which makes selecting products more difficult, and could cause compatibility problems of components that may not have enough bandwidth for the various 4K formats, enough MHz on the HDMI chips, and may not support the correct HDCP content protection version.
Beware of the fine detail on the specifications, and if the detail is not specified request information to make sure the product will do what you expect regarding 4K with the other components, not to mention making sure that it will do what it claims to do.
That is if you actually know what you need to know technically to ask the right questions and make sense of all the specifications and standards, which not even many industry professionals know in this evolving world of 4K implementations and standards as they get established.
Regardless, the market already has a large variety of 4K/UHDTV displays, content, Home-theater A/V equipment, self-proclaimed 4K cabling, etc., the world of early adoption.
My advice is, if you actually "need" a new TV now there is no reason for not considering an UHDTV if the price is acceptable to you, give less attention to the negative comments that the eye's acuity does not let you see a single 4K pixel from X viewing distance and rather experience personally the stunning image made of millions of small and adjacent pixels shown at the stores compared to HD sets. Also, relax the concern of not having yet all the 4K content you may want, the UHDTV upscales and shows a great image from a well recorded Blu-ray or HDTV source that may make you wonder if you are actually watching a 4K source, a subject that I cover on this article.
The few technical classes that I briefly attended were excellent in content and were presented by very knowledgeable professionals in the subject. Although that was not consistently the case with other tracks, I recommend the ones I attended for the subjects above.
The information provided was accurate and consistent with my personal understanding of the subjects, although I disagree with some class comments that a) diminished the importance of quality interconnect/speaker cables (analog and digital), and b) claimed that all amplifiers/pre-amps sound equally.
Although I am not a supporter of esoteric cables or equipment, over the past five decades I personally experienced many improvements and differences in sound and video quality produced by better cables and equipment, analog and digital.
Sony issued CEDIA's Keynote and one of the announcements (needed for a better 4K adoption) was that later this year Sony's FMP-X10 4K player will be made compatible to other brands of 4K displays that support HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 content protection, such as Samsung and LG, which currently do not have a 4K player (LG at CEDIA said they have no plans for one, and Samsung has only a preloaded UHD Video Pack with just 5 movies and 3 documentaries compatible with their own UHDTVs, and the company was not at CEDIA).
Sony also mentioned the work the Blu-Ray Association is doing to implement a 4K version of the spec next year so 4K Blu-Ray players may begin to appear toward the end of 2015. Sony also mentioned new partnerships for more 4K content in addition to the Netflix 4K streaming content that is currently available in Sony's FMP-X10 4K player, UHDTVs, and the UHDTVs of other manufacturers. After CEDIA, Nanotech announced their partnership with Sony to add their UltraFlix 4K Network app to access their VOD 4K content from Sony's 2014 line of UHDTVs.
Before I left for CEDIA I received the Nanotech's Nuvola NP-1 4K player for a review but I did not see the player or the company at CEDIA.
On their Keynote presentation Sony promoted their 4K products, including their FMP-X10 4K player and content from the Sony Entertainment 4K Unlimited Service. Sony is uniquely positioned in the consumer and professional market with their broad ecosystem of 4K products from content and cameras to displays.
Sony's mentioned the (previously introduced) short-throw 4K projector model LSPX-W1 at the Keynote (MSRP $50,000), which, instead of using the typical lamp that lasts 2000-3000 hours before requiring replacement, the projector uses blue laser diodes that last 20,000 hours with a light and color output of 2000 lumens.
The projector uses 3 SXRD 0.74" display chips to display 4096x2160 4K images just a few inches from the screen (66-147 inches) which can be located above or below the 113lbs projector. It accepts 4K up to 4196x2160 60p, has a dual 40W 8 ohms speaker setup with a frequency response of 40Hz-20kHz, and features 4 HDMI inputs, two speaker terminals, TRILUMINOS display capabilities, picture position memory, Reality Creation video processing, 3D support (optional TDG-BT500A active 3D glasses), and Powered Focus, Zoom, and Corner correction adjustment.
A Laser Version of the Current Sony Flagship VPL-VW1100ES 4K Projector? When?
Although Sony did not officially announce at CEDIA a near future laser version of the current flagship 4K projector (VPL-VW1100ES), it is expected (and maybe announced at CES 2015) for it to occur, and I was informally told that Sony's engineers are already working on it.
Since no other 4K projector in the market competes with its 4K performance other than much higher-price-large-venue 4K projectors, I would replace my VPL-VW11000ES by another Sony 4K projector if a) a laser unit would provide significant color improvement and have a Color Management System to perform ISF/THX calibrations, or b) to upgrade to a future Sony 8K projector that would be reasonably priced relative to the VPL-VW1100ES ($28,000).
Otherwise, I am not interested in the laser concept economics of not-having-to-replace lamps. A new lamp every couple of years makes the projector shine again as new investing a few hundred dollars (about 2+% of the projector cost), and I would probably replace the projector anyway with newer technology for better imaging after replacing a couple of lamps (2000-3000 hours each).
Sony also introduced three new ES line A/V receivers capable of handling 4K content protected with HDCP 2.2 (even on the 4K video zones). The removable faceplate STR-ZA3000ES 7.2-channel 110-watt top-of-the line A/V Receiver ($1699 retail) includes a 6-input/2-output HDMI matrix switch, is IP controllable, and is compatible with Control 4, Crestron, RTI and URC remote control devices.
Sony and JVC Projectors Comparison Demo
CEDIA showed a comparison of Sony's VPL-VW600ES ($15,000) 4K projector having 1700 lumens with JVC's top of the line 4K e-shift projector (which although it accepts 4K content and uses the 4K logo the projector is not actually a native 4K projector, it rather uses a legacy 1080p DiLA chip-set).
JVC did a special calibration to their projector so it would display at its best, and Sony's engineer at CEDIA (introduced as the "father" of Sony's 4K projectors) invited me to collaborate in calibrating and adjusting the VPL-VW600ES for the comparison. The presenter said that the calibration settings of the JVC menu were shaded out when receiving a 4K source and defaults to the manufacturer's settings. The side-by-side identical screens were very large and the room was dark during the demonstration.
In all honesty the JVC displayed 4K and 1080p sources quite well in the comparison, but the Sony was sufficiently better in the clarity, facial details, deeper blacks, brighter whites, and a more natural color rendition, especially with 4K native content, to justify the extra $3,000 (about 20% of the projector price), moreover considering that the Sony projector is actually a 4K unit. At the end the decision is subjected to the value each consumer sets for the return on the investment.
If the JVC projector would have been compared to the $28,000 Sony VPL-VW1100ES 4K projector, which I own, the better image quality with 2000 lumens and better lens would have been more notorious, but many may not justify the increment in image quality when doubling the dollar investment, and that maybe the reason JVC found motivation in continuing filling the market gap pricing between legacy 1080p projectors and true 4K projectors, although that may change next year for JVC's top-of-the line units considering that Sony introduced the "more affordable" VPL-VW600ES $15,000 true 4K projector (more below).
Other 4K Projectors
JVC did not make any announcements at CEDIA to introduce a native 4K projector any time soon. When prompted for comments, JVC said that perhaps CES in January will change that, but no statements were issued to motivate any hopes.
Other 4K projectors from Digital Projection and Christie were shown, but their high price, large size/weight, and high lumen output rather fit large-venue applications or Hollywood movie directors, not to compete with the $15-$28K consumer home-theater 4K projector market currently dominated by Sony.
LG Press Presentation re: UHDTV
LG introduced a new 105-inches (105UC9) LCD UHDTV panel for $99,999, with a Cinemascope 21:9 aspect ratio (5120x2160 pixel resolution), IPS 4K panel, Tru-4K Engine Pro, Smart TV powered by webOS with premium content providers like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu Plus, 7.2 150w speaker system, passive 3D (2 pairs of 3D glasses included), 3 HDMI side inputs, 1 component rear input, one USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 on the side, built-in camera, Wi-Fi and LAN connection, etc. The set will be available in November 2014.
LG also introduced "a smaller" UHDTV 3D LCD w/LED panel (98-inches), within the 9800 series, the 98UB9800 ($39,999) with 16:9 aspect ratio, Tru-Ultra HD Engine, 4 HDMI 2.0 inputs on the side, 3 USB, 1 component, Wi-Fi and LAN connection, 5.2 120w Harmon Kardon speaker system w/subwoofer, 10-bit color, Tru Color Generator, 4K Resolution Upscaler, available in November 2014.
LG also announced three new series: UB9200, UB8200 and UB8000. The new models in the LG Ultra HD 4K family are the 65-inch class (64.5 inches diagonal) 65UB9200; the UB8200 series, available in 60-, 55- and 49-inch class sizes (59.5, 54.6 and 48.5 inch diagonal); and the 40-inch class (39.5 inches diagonal) 40UB8000. All feature the latest HDMI connectivity, H.265 decoding and LG's Tru-4K Engine, LG's Smart TV platform for access to 4K programming, and many other content options from the most popular on-line content providers.
Series, Models and Suggested Prices:
105-inch class Model 105UC9, $99,999.99
98-inch class Model 98UB9800, $39,999.99
84-inch class Model 84UB9800, $9,999.99
79-inch class Model 79UB9800, $7,999.99
65-inch class Model 65UB9800, $4,499.99
65-inch class Model 65UB9500, $3,499.99
55-inch class Model 55UB9500, $2,499.99
65-inch class Model 65UB9200, $2,999.99
55-inch class Model 55UB8500, $1,999.99
49-inch class Model 49UB8500, $1,499.99
60-inch class Model 60UB8200, $2,499.99
55-inch class Model 55UB8200, $1,799.99
49-inch class Model 49UB8200, $1,349.99
40-inch class Model 40UB8000, $999.99
I particularly liked more the 77 inches OLED UHDTV (77EG9700, $24,999, November availability) also shown at their exhibit booth, and the 65 inches OLED UHDTV version (65EC9700, $9,999, October availability).
LG uses WRGB OLED technology, each pixel is made up of four sub-pixels, which equals roughly 33 million sub-pixels working to produce what the company says is the most lifelike color and level of detail. The panel has Tru-4K Engine Pro which uses a dual-chip, 6-step process to upscale HD content into 4K, HEVC decoding, Smart TV+webOS. 4-channel 40w speaker system, 4 HDMI (1-side, 3-rear), 1 component, 3D FPR passive, Wi-Fi and LAN connector, 75.4 lbs TV, 67.6" x 41.9" screen size. I wish LG would also make it flat.
As I mentioned earlier, LG declared at CEDIA to have no plans for introducing 4K players. LG also responded with a NO to my question of "if their UHDTV panels could be upgradeable" in the near future if the industry implements 4K features and standards that are beyond the capabilities of the TVs. That was not exactly what I was hoping to hear if I would be investing $100,000 on a TV.
EPSON 4K "Enhancement" 3LCD Reflective Laser Projector
Another entry of 4K projection at CEDIA was the Epson LS10000 $8,000 "4K Enhancement" 3LCD Reflective laser model, demoed with an 11-feet wide Cinemascope screen in a totally dark room. According to Epson, the LS10000 has 1500 lumens, Absolute Black contrast ratio, wider color gamut, richer colors and smoother gradations, broad color reproduction with DCI and Adobe RGB modes, store up to 10 settings in the projector memory for zoom and focus positions for standard 16:9 or 4:3 projection areas, and 2.35:1 wide cinema ratio.
Regarding my CEDIA experience at this demo, I wish it would have been more productive, my time was very limited so I purposely was second in line when the exhibits opened at 9am the last day of CEDIA, but the demo was not yet setup, after a while we got in and were told to wait further (for people that were not even waiting for the demo) so I asked to describe the equipment while we wait, but the response was to rather wait to avoid repeating the information later. Then the presenter focused the speech on Epson installer sales in the US and Canada, instead of the LS10000.
When the projector demo started I noticed the 4K scenes were color over-saturated, especially in the green and red, conveying a cartoonish color effect. The Blu-Ray car-race movie clip showed better but, although the projector was said to be calibrated, skin tones had a red push (like not using skin protection on a full day at the beach).
Unfortunately more time was spent in describing the cars and the movie plot than in displaying the short clip to evaluate and appreciate the projector. My technical questions did not get a response at the demo, which was unexpected on a technically-oriented CEDIA installers show. Regardless, I concentrated in evaluating image quality.
Was the 3LCD dual laser Epson projector image worth the price? Perhaps, for those concerned with spending a few hundred dollars every 3,000 hours on a new lamp (although it makes the projector shine again as new), and rather spend upfront on a 17,000 hour laser solution, although Epson said not having a service-upgrade plan if the light source is depleted to a level the consumer may want to replace.
Perhaps the price is also worth to those that prefer the type of oversaturated color image, or if a 1-chip DLP color-wheel projector gives unacceptable rainbow effect, a 3-chip DLP be too expensive, or dislike LCoS technology. Fortunately the market offers enough variety for all the cases and preferences and LCD projection has improved. To its credit the light output was very good on the demo and hopefully will maintain the same light level for a long time.
In a general note, several manufacturers such as Sharp, JVC, Epson and others, loosely use the 4K logo together with other terms (e-shift, enhancement, etc.) on products that are not natively 4K. That approach may create a marketing-edge but adds confusion when uninformed consumers may misinterpret the true capabilities of the products.
Bang & Olufsen 4K 85-inches UHDTV LCD Panel
At their press presentation the company unveiled their new 85-inches LCD UHDTV panel (BeoVision Avant 85) that adapts and rotates to the viewer's preferred position, as the company describes:
"Touch one button on BeoRemote One, and it finds your favorite position, your favorite channel, and your favorite sound setting. When you switch it off, it folds back the speakers, and returns to its discrete resting place close up against the wall. With eight integrated driver units and a surround sound module, BeoVision Avant 85" provides an unrivalled sound performance. The integrated 3-channel speaker solution, consisting of a center channel and stereo, delivers robust stereo performance with optimized speech reproduction and sufficient bass to satisfy your wishes when watching even the most extreme sports or action footage with crystal sharp, dynamic precision. However, if you wish to extend the sound up to a full 7.1 surround solution this is possible - even wirelessly - as the television incorporates the Immaculate Wireless Sound Concept."
"BeoVision Avant 85" is available from September 11, 2014, and will be on sale exclusively at Bang & Olufsen stores. MSRP is $22,700 USD for BeoVision Avant 85" including BeoRemote One. Motorized floor stand retails at $2295."
Not related to 4K, the company also showed other whole house practical solutions with inter-connected devices with short demos of their "Intelligent Integration" concept that made this press event interesting and certainly different to the ones I attended before, not to mention the effort Bang & Olufsen did to efficiently do the three demos quick and in separated environments within a relatively small booth. It was a great job done by the organizers, and the features and devices showed the trademark style of the elegant products the company produces.
DVDO and 4K
Regarding the currently available DVDO 4K switcher DVDO QUICK6R , it does not support HDCP 2.2, which is the protection used on current 4K content from Sony and others.
Regarding bandwidth, the unit uses a 300 MHz HDMI chip, which should pass 2160p 4:2:0/8 bit/60fps which requires 8.91 Gbps and 297 MHz, but it may not pass 10-bit (as announced for the near future 4K Blu-ray for 24/30fps by the Blu-Ray Association) if the Association meant the 10-bit for also 60 fps video, which requires 11.14 Gbps and exceeds the 300 MHz HDMI-chip capacity of the DVDO unit (and also exceeds the 10.2 Gbps of high speed HDMI cable).
In other words, only 2160p UHDTV 10-bit at 24/30fps (movies) could be possible with the current 300 MHz HDMI chip, not 60fps 10-bit if implemented that way, but regardless of bandwidth, the unit does not pass HDCP 2.2 and that by itself is an obstacle for a 4K switcher of 4K players.
However, DVDO said they will have a new unit by year-end that will handle HDCP 2.2 (the HDMI chip cannot be firmware upgradable for HDCP) and will have a 600 Mcsc (Mega-Characters/second/channel) capable chip for the full 18 Gbps of HDMI version 2 (which does not necessarily mean a 600 MHz chip, as pre-2.0 HDMI versions did correlate Mcsc with MHz; the HDMI 2.0 clock runs at 1/4 the rate for speeds over 340Mcsc). The new unit will also include other connectivity/remote features. DVDO will offer a trade-in program for owners of the current $429 unit so they can upgrade to the new one when available, but no pricing has been announced yet.
The company showed their current standalone product that performs similarly to the Darblet I reviewed almost two years ago and can be mounted in an A/V rack. The unit still operates over 1080p sources. I wanted to review a 4K capable unit which the company does not have available yet but they said to be working on it.
Although no introduction date was anticipated I suppose they may announce a 4K product at CES 2015, but they gave no indication of such. The company said that they were selling more Darbee products when included within other company products, such as the Lumagen scaler and the Oppo Blu-Ray player, than standalone units.
I attended the Dolby Atmos demo and also attended their audio-concept presentation. Several Dolby partner vendors made similar Atmos presentations at CEDIA. Although I like the concept of electronically moving the sounds to follow the way objects actually move in reality and on a movie (regardless of channels), the actual demo was too loud to my taste to properly appreciate the sound effect, it made the experience like an amusement park ride.
Regarding the height channel, the concept of ceiling speakers is coming back to haunt us, my first experience of the ceiling channel was on the ADS-10 Acoustic Dimension Synthesizer about 40 years ago, and a similar concept was also implemented later as a matrixed extraction of equal sounds coming from the center front and center back channels to be directed to the ceiling speaker (like Dolby Pro-Logic extracts the dialogue center channel from equal sounds of L/R channels). Now Dolby Atmos increases the effect using 4 ceiling speakers (on the 7.1.4 speaker arrangement) or using 4 specialized speakers pointing toward the ceiling.
Regarding Blu-Ray media that would carry the Atmos soundtrack, considering than an abundant number of Blu-ray movies are being released and prefer the use of DTS Master Audio lossless soundtracks (in excess of 90% I believe) rather than using the Dolby True-HD lossless codec, it will be interesting to see how the Blu-ray market will respond when having to instead use the Dolby True-HD lossless codec to been able to carry the Dolby Atmos soundtrack into it.
I typically adopt early my own audio/video equipment but I believe the market has been and still is oversaturated with never ending introductions of new multi-channel audio codecs that cause premature obsolescence of A/V receivers-pre-pros and often require equipment replacement. In the Atmos case it also requires the addition of four specialized speakers capable to reproduce the required height sounds. This is particularly ironic considering that, at the same CEDIA technical training, studies were presented concluding that the typical 5.1 speaker arrangement was considered a sufficient number of channels/speakers for surround purposes at the home.
Again, I extend my congratulations to CEDIA for their effort this year, for the increased 4K/UHDTV manufacturer attendance, and the arrangements to have more dedicated press conferences.
My next stops are October's SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) conference in Hollywood CA, where I anticipate we will continue the heated discussions about 4K standards as we did last year, and later the International CES (January 2015) in Las Vegas, with an expected 150,000+ attendance, where I expect to see more 4K product introductions (specially from Samsung and Panasonic, which did not attend CEDIA). Stay tuned.
Posted by Rodolfo La Maestra, September 19, 2014 5:25 PM
About Rodolfo La Maestra
Rodolfo La Maestra is the Senior Technical Director of UHDTV Magazine and HDTV Magazine and participated in the HDTV vision since the late 1980's. In the late 1990's, he began tracking and reviewing HDTV consumer equipment, and authored the annual HDTV Technology Review report, tutorials, and educative articles for HDTV Magazine, DVDetc and HDTVetc magazines, Veritas et Visus Newsletter, Display Search, and served as technical consultant/editor for the "Reference Guide" and the "HDTV Glossary of Terms" for HDTVetc and HDTV Magazines. In 2004, he began recording a weekly HDTV technology program for MD Cable television, which by 2006 reached the rating of second most viewed.
Rodolfo's background encompasses Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Audio and Video Electronics, with over 4,700 hours of professional training, a BS in Computer and Information Systems, and thirty+ professional and post-graduate certifications, some from MIT, American, and George Washington Universities. Rodolfo was also Computer Science professor in five institutions between 1966-1973 in Argentina, regarding IBM, Burroughs, and Honeywell mainframe computers. After 38 years of computer systems career, Rodolfo retired in 2003 as Chief of Systems Development from the Inter-American Development Bank directing sixty+ software-development computer professionals, supporting member countries in north/central/south America.